Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA)
The Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) charter is a professional designation established in 1962 and awarded by CFA Institute. To earn the CFA charter, candidates must pass three sequential, six-hour examinations which takes most candidates between two and five years. The three levels of the CFA Program test a wide range of investment topics, including ethical and professional standards, fixed-income analysis, alternative and derivative investments, and portfolio management and wealth planning. In addition, CFA charterholders must have at least four years of acceptable professional experience in the investment decision-making process and must commit to abide by, and annually reaffirm, their adherence to the CFA Institute Code of Ethics and Standards of Professional Conduct.
Certified Financial Planner™ (CFP®)
The Certified Financial Planner™, CFP® and federally registered CFP (with flame design) marks (collectively, the “CFP® marks”) are professional certification marks granted in the United States by Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards, Inc. (“CFP Board”).
The CFP® certification is a voluntary certification; no federal or state law or regulation requires financial planners to hold CFP® certification. It is recognized in the United States and a number of other countries for its (1) high standard of professional education; (2) stringent code of conduct and standards of practice; and (3) ethical requirements that govern professional engagements with clients. Currently, more than 62,000 individuals have obtained CFP® certification in the United States.
To attain the right to use the CFP® marks, an individual must satisfactorily fulfill the following requirements:
Education – Complete an advanced college-level course of study addressing the financial planning subject areas that CFP Board’s studies have determined as necessary for the competent and professional delivery of financial planning services, and attain a Bachelor’s Degree from a regionally accredited United States college or university (or its equivalent from a foreign university). CFP Board’s financial planning subject areas include insurance planning and risk management, employee benefits planning, investment planning, income tax planning, retirement planning, and estate planning;
Examination – Pass the comprehensive CFP® Certification Examination. The examination, administered in 10 hours over a two-day period, includes case studies and client scenarios designed to test one’s ability to correctly diagnose financial planning issues and apply one’s knowledge of financial planning to real world circumstances;
Experience – Complete at least three years of full-time financial planning-related experience (or the equivalent, measured as 2,000 hours per year); and
Ethics – Agree to be bound by CFP Board’s Standards of Professional Conduct, a set of documents outlining the ethical and practice standards for CFP® professionals.
Individuals who become certified must complete the following ongoing education and ethics requirements in order to maintain the right to continue to use the CFP® marks:
Continuing Education – Complete 30 hours of continuing education hours every two years, including two hours on the Code of Ethics and other parts of the Standards of Professional Conduct, to maintain competence and keep up with developments in the financial planning field; and
Ethics – Renew an agreement to be bound by the Standards of Professional Conduct. The Standards prominently require that CFP® professionals provide financial planning services at a fiduciary standard of care. This means CFP® professionals must provide financial planning services in the best interests of their clients.
CFP® professionals who fail to comply with the above standards and requirements may be subject to CFP Board’s enforcement process, which could result in suspension or permanent revocation of their CFP® certification.
From the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards, Inc.
Certified Public Accountant (CPA)
Certified Public Accountant (CPA) CPAs are licensed and regulated by their state boards of accountancy. While state laws and regulations vary, the education, experience, and testing requirements for licensure as a CPA generally include minimum college education (typically 150 credit hours with at least a baccalaureate degree and a concentration in accounting), minimum experience levels (most states require at least one year of experience providing services that involve the use of accounting, attest, compilation, management advisory, financial advisory, tax or consulting skills, all of which must be achieved under the supervision of or verification by a CPA), and successful passage of the Uniform CPA Examination. In order to maintain a CPA license, states generally require the completion of 40 hours of continuing professional education (CPE) each year (or 80 hours over a two-year period or 120 hours over a three-year period). Additionally, all American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) members are required to follow a rigorous Code of Professional Conduct which requires that they act with integrity, objectivity, due care, competence, fully disclose any conflicts of interest (and obtain client consent if a conflict exists), maintain client confidentiality, disclose to the client any commission or referral fees, and serve the public interest when providing financial services. The vast majority of state boards of accountancy have adopted the AICPA’s Code of Professional Conduct within their state accountancy laws or have created their own.
Chartered Financial Consultant® (ChFC®)
Chartered Financial Consultants® must successfully complete eight courses on all aspects of financial planning from The American College, have at least three years of full-time business experience, and agree to comply with The American College Code of Ethics and Procedures. ChFC®s are required to earn 30 hours of continuing education credit every two years.
The Chartered Financial Consultant® (ChFC) designation program focuses on the comprehensive financial planning process as an organized way to collect and analyze information on a client’s total financial situation; to identify and establish specific financial goals; and to formulate, implement, and monitor a comprehensive plan to achieve those goals.
From The American College
Accredited Investment Fiduciary®
The Accredited Investment Fiduciary® (AIF) Designation Training and designation help mitigate this liability with instruction covering pertinent legislation and best practices. AIF® designees have the ability to implement a prudent process into their own investment practices as well as being able to assist others in implementing proper policies and procedures.
From fi360 Global Fiduciary Insights
Accredited Financial Counselor®
The AFC® designation demonstrates to colleagues, clients, employers, and the public that certified individuals have the knowledge and proficiency required of the financial counselor professional. Professionals earn this distinction through education, experience, and by meeting the highest standards of social science and practice of professional financial counselors validated by their performance through examination.
Development and maintenance of the AFC examination is based on a job/practice analysis study process that is designed to ascertain, directly from practicing professionals, the frequency with which knowledge and skills are applied in practice, and the importance or criticality of required knowledge, skills, and abilities.
From AFCPE (Association for Financial Counseling & Planning Education®)
Accredited Estate Planner®
Awarded by the National Association of Estate Planners & Councils to recognized estate planning professionals who meet special requirements of education, experience, knowledge, professional reputation, and character, the AEP® designation helps both clients and colleagues understand your belief in, and dedication to, the team concept of estate planning.
The Accredited Estate Planner® designation is available to attorneys, Chartered Life Underwriters®, Certified Public Accountants, Certified Trust and Financial Advisors, Chartered Financial Consultants®, and Certified Financial Planners® who are actively engaged in estate planning and meet stringent qualifications at the time of application and commit to ongoing continuing education and recertification requirements.
With a minimum of 5 years of experience, the designation is available after taking two courses through The American College. For information about courses offered through The American College, please visit http://www.theamericancollege.edu/certification-programs/aep-accredited-estate-planner.
For those individuals who have 15 years of experience or more, one may choose to be exempt from the required graduate-level courses in estate planning.
From the National Association of Estate Planners & Councils
Accredited Wealth Management AdvisorSM
Individuals who hold the AWMA® designation have completed a course of study encompassing wealth strategies, equity-based compensation plans, tax reduction alternatives, and asset protection alternatives. Additionally, individuals must pass an end-of-course examination that tests their ability to synthesize complex concepts and apply theoretical concepts to real-life situations.
All designees have agreed to adhere to Standards of Professional Conduct and are subject to a disciplinary process. Designees renew their designation every two years by completing 16 hours of continuing education, reaffirming adherence to the Standards of Professional Conduct, and complying with self-disclosure requirements.
From the College for Financial Planning®
Chartered Retirement Plans Specialist™ or CRPS®
Individuals who hold the CRPS® designation have completed a course of study encompassing design, installation, maintenance, and administration of retirement plans. Additionally, individuals must pass an end-of-course examination that tests their ability to synthesize complex concepts and apply theoretical concepts to real-life situations.
All designees have agreed to adhere to Standards of Professional Conduct and are subject to a disciplinary process.
Designees renew their designation every two years by completing 16 hours of continuing education, reaffirming adherence to the Standards of Professional Conduct as described by the College For Financial Planning, and complying with self-disclosure requirements.
From the College for Financial Planning®
Chartered SRI Counselor™ or CSRIC®
The Chartered SRI Counselor™, or CSRIC® program, is a designation program for financial professionals. The Chartered SRI Counselor is issued by the College for Financial Planning. It is accredited by the U.S Department of Education Regional Accredited Agencies, The Higher Learning Commission (HLC). This designation is the first within the financial sector dedicated to SRI.
In order to qualify, all candidates must complete a graduate-level course within a year of enrollment as well as pass a final exam. This program provides experienced financial advisors and investment professionals with a foundation knowledge of the history, definitions, trends, portfolio construction principles, fiduciary responsibilities, and best practices for sustainable, responsible, and impact (SRI) investments. The course program looks at SRI through shareholder advocacy, community investing, and corporate responsibility. Meanwhile, the exam, consisting of 70 questions, tests portfolio construction with SRI in mind and knowledge of environmental, social, and governance (ESG) performance, risk, and rating metrics. Finally, for advisors, the exam also covers the fiduciary standard, communicating the value of SRI, and current and future opportunities within SRI.
All CSRIC®s are required to complete 16 hours of continuing education credits every two years.
From the College for Financial Planning®
Accredited Behavioral Finance ProfessionalTM or ABFPTM
The Accredited Behavioral Finance ProfessionalTM or ABFPTM program, is a program designed for mid-career and advanced career financial professionals that enhances advisors’ emotional competencies, client interactions, and financial planning advice through a thorough understanding of psychological explanations for economic behavior and hands-on practice of knowledge. The ABFPTM program brings together comprehensive research and trends from leaders and experts in the area of behavioral finance with engaging activities.
To qualify, candidates must complete online coursework and take a final exam within 120 days of beginning the program. Topics include behavioral finance theory and implications, emotions in investors & financial markets, behavioral investing, risk detection and debasing, investor bias mitigation and neurofinance, and new frontiers in behavioral finance. The final exam consists of 65 questions covering all modules, and candidates have a lifetime maximum of two attempts to pass.
Accredited Behavioral Finance Professionals are required to complete 16 hours of continuing education credits every two years.
From the College for Financial Planning®
An enrolled agent is a person who has earned the privilege of representing taxpayers before the Internal Revenue Service by either passing a three-part comprehensive IRS test covering individual and business tax returns, or through experience as a former IRS employee. Enrolled agent status is the highest credential the IRS awards. Individuals who obtain this elite status must adhere to ethical standards and complete 72 hours of continuing education courses every three years.
Enrolled agents, like attorneys and certified public accountants (CPAs), have unlimited practice rights. This means they are unrestricted as to which taxpayers they can represent, what types of tax matters they can handle, and which IRS offices they can represent clients before. Learn more about enrolled agents in Treasury Department Circular 230 .
From the Internal Revenue Service (IRS)
See pages 33-36 in PDF
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